Today's Papers

Will Bill Pass the House?

Everybody leads with the formal defense of President Clinton before the House Judiciary committee, to be delivered not by him but for him by fourteen academics and lawyers.

USA Today quotes Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart saying, “It’s time to make our case. We plan to do it in a serious way.” (Last minute cut of Gallagher from witness list?) In response to the articles of impeachment the HJC is likely to propose, the presentation will include, USAT says, arguments that Clinton did not perjure himself, obstruct justice or abuse his power. The other papers say the White House defense will stress the incommensurability of Clinton’s admitted actions and the threshold of impeachability, to be exemplified, say the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post by Watergate.

The papers say that the committee is almost certain to approve at least one article of impeachment. Therefore, they say, the real audience for all of this is most of all the upwards of twenty undecided House members. The WP says David Kendall was left out of the witness package because this is now a constitutional fight more properly fought by White House (not personal) lawyers. The Wall Street Journal gives a more convincing reason: Kendall grates on Republican nerves. USAT has fresh polling saying that two out of three Americans oppose impeachment, with most favoring censure. And that’s the position taken by the LAT’s lead editorial. But, reports the New York Times, Henry Hyde hasn’t decided yet whether he will allow a committee vote on censure.

The WP says the Clinton witness list will include a law professor who will argue that articles of impeachment approved by this lame duck Congress would not be binding on the next Congress, to be installed in January. The NYT op-ed page features a column by that prof giving his argument. The LAT and NYT say that many in Congress feel this sort of expert and theoretical testimony will be less effective than some sort of further personal expression of regret by Clinton. The WP says a further gesture by Clinton is still a possibility. The Times says some Democrats have told the White House Clinton needs to show he’s more concerned about impeachment than about protecting himself from post-presidential prosecution. (Question: Why does Clinton need to worry about personal legal consequences–can’t he just pardon himself right before he leaves office?)

The NYT off-lead scares with word that Iran, which wants a germ warfare capability to match Iraq’s, has had some success recruiting former Soviet scientists who specialize in this area, by offering monthly salaries of $5,000–more than these Russians can earn in a year. The U.S. is trying to defeat this trend, explains the Times, by spending money to keep Russian bio-warfare experts gainfully employed in less volatile lines of work in their native country.

The papers’ fronts all report that yesterday, Janet Reno decided that there is no need to appoint an independent counsel to look into Bill Clinton’s 1996 fund-raising. The NYT, follows its long-time harsh stance on the matter by calling Reno’s move “obstinacy” and the conclusion of “one of the sorriest episodes in modern Justice Department history.” The WP editorial on this says Reno is right because the campaign finance laws are vague and weak, and notes that the anger about her decision coming from Congress is ironic since Congress could most easily remedy this.

USAT, which for over a year has reported on the small number of minorities and women hired by the Supreme Court to be law clerks, runs as its off-lead the official answer it finally got yesterday. (The response also runs inside at the WP.) Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing on behalf of the entire Court, recognized the low numbers, but said they wouldn’t improve until the pool of applicant lawyers becomes more diverse.

The LAT lead runs under the headline, “Defense Says Clinton Acts Pale Next to Watergate.” Isn’t this an odd locution for a paper with a style sheet so famously politically correct that it bans such non-issue locutions as “to welsh on a bet”? After all, “to pale” means “to be whiter” and if as the headline would have it, “whiter” means “less bad,” then “white” means “good.”